A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The missile that was fired into the Golan Heights on Sunday by Iranian forces was fired from an area near Damascus that Israel had been assured was empty of any Iranian presence.
“The firing of the missile yesterday – a launch that could have killed civilians – was fired by Iranians out of Damascus within an area that we were promised that there would be no Iranians,” IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told reporters on Monday.
According to the IDF, the missile was an Iranian-made medium-range model that was fired from the outskirts of Damascus. The launch, at approximately 3 p.m., came about an hour after Israel allegedly struck targets in Syria in a rare daytime attack.
“The bottom line is that such a missile fired by Iranians from an area where they are not supposed to be is an Iranian attempt to attack Israel, to endanger civilians’ lives and military targets.”
According to Manelis, the fire was carried out by Iranian command and not by Syrians or local militias.
“This was planned in advance as an attempt to deter us from continuing to act against them in Syria,” Manelis said, stressing that the missile launch on Sunday and the Iranian targets struck early on Monday showed just how deep Iran’s entrenchment in the war-torn country is.
“This is the third time that Iran has tried to attack Israel in the past year, he said, referring to past events in February and May when rockets were launched by Iranian troops toward Israel. “Iran is exploiting Syria, and Syria is paying a heavy price for facilitating Iranian actions.”
Israel has worked closely with the US and Russia to try getting Iranian and Hezbollah forces to leave Syria where they have been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad since the civil war started there some eight years ago.
On Friday, the pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported that Moscow asked Jerusalem to halt its airstrikes against Iranian targets near Damascus Airport, saying Russia was preparing to renovate the airport following damage it sustained during the war.
Quoting unnamed officials, the report said the continued Israeli strikes on Iranian and Hezbollah targets at the airport were causing foreign airlines to reconsider whether they should resume flights to the Syrian capital.
The report came a day after the IDF and a delegation of senior Russian military officials completed a series of meetings aimed at improving relations between the two armed forces. The meetings followed the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian air defenses last year, for which Moscow continues to blame Israel.
In July, Israel reportedly rejected a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria some 100 km. away from Israel’s northern border, sticking instead to its demands that Iran not be allowed any military foothold in the country.
The offer came during a two-hour meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. In that meeting, Netanyahu demanded the removal of all long-range missiles and air-defense systems, the shutting of precision-guided missile factories, and the closure of border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, and between Syria and Iraq, to prevent Iran from smuggling weapons overland.
One of Iran’s aspirations is to complete a land bridge from its own borders through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea.
This route would cover approximately 1,200 km. of territory, including the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and the deserts of Iraq and Syria. If successful, the land bridge would give Iran the ability to transfer weapons to Hezbollah and project its power throughout the region.
Israel is concerned that such a presence would give Iran influence over political decision-making in Syria. It could also mean that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, advisers and doctrines would be incorporated into Syria’s security architecture.
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